Top Of The Food Chain: Short Ribs


Illustration by Laura Williams

Welcome to Top Of The Food Chain, a column from Eat Me Daily's meatiest columnist, Ryan Adams. Every week we'll attempt to demystify the options available in your supermarket, breaking animals down piece by piece so that the next time you find yourself staring at endless Styrofoam containers, you'll be able to make an informed purchase. This week: Short Ribs.

If you were to do a quick Google search for short rib recipes, you'd find a little over three million web pages, with suggestions from every corner of the world. Sporting a uniform shape, intense flavor and a fall-off-the-bone tenderness when cooked correctly, short ribs are a very popular cut of meat, largely because of their versatility. If you put a gun to my head, I'd have to pick braising as the only proper way to cook short ribs, but there are many other suitable methods.


Cut: Short Ribs


Photograph by talkoftomatoes

Short Ribs can be cut from three different sections. The most common short rib cut comes from the thick side of the prime rib. A second source is found in the plate primal, which is found in the animal's forequarter right below the rib primal. The last comes from right under the chuck from the first to the fifth rib, and can also go by the name flanken ribs. 

Sadly, the section from which the short ribs are sourced is rarely identified on supermarket labels. This is particularly frustrating as the three different kinds of short ribs have markedly different qualities. Short ribs that come from the plate primal have lots of good muscle tissue, but also a significant amount of fat. Rib primal short ribs don't have as much meat to them as the plate variety, but are far more tender. Flanken ribs are tougher, and less fatty.

Regardless of which variety you're dealing with, braising does a great job of breaking down the connective tissue that holds the meat to the bone. The constant contact with liquid at a higher temperature encourages the metamorphosis of collagen tissue into gelatin, which adds flavor and moisture to the muscle. Thankfully, there is more than just one way to achieve similar results: sous vide and BBQ. Sous vide is, without a doubt, the most efficient way to do achieve fork tender short ribs, but barbecuing, pressure cooking and even steaming all can provide excellent results.



Short Ribs

All variation photography by NAMP Meat Buyer's Guide

Plate Short Ribs
This cut consists of the rib and plate sections, and will contain at least 2, but no more than 5 ribs.

Plate Short Ribs, Trimmed
Similar to the untrimmed Plate Short Ribs, this version removes the latissimus dorsi muscle, and its exterior fat cover.

Short Ribs, Lean
This is just like the other varieties of Plate Short Ribs, but the layer of fat has been trimmed extensively.

Boneless Short Ribs
Short Ribs, Boneless
This is the Plate Short ribs sans bones and intercostal meat.

Chuck Short Ribs
Chuck Short Ribs
More expensive than plate ribs, this cut comes from the Chuck Primal, and most of the surface fat will be trimmed.

Back Ribs
Back Ribs
The most expensive form of short ribs, these cuts are sometimes called "dinosaur ribs," and are found in the rib primal.


What to look for when buying

The meat itself should have a bright, cherry-red color with fat speckled throughout the muscle. Check that the muscle is firm to the touch, and the container shouldn't have excess liquid.

When purchasing short ribs with bones, you want to consider the weight of the bone and shrinkage from cooking. Look into buying at least a whole pound for each person. For boneless short ribs, a half pound per person is generally sufficient.



You can keep short ribs in the refrigerator for up to four days. Beef can be frozen in its original packaging for up to two weeks. If you're going for longer storage, you can prevent freezer burn by re-wrapping your short ribs in freezer paper, plastic freezer bags or heavy-duty aluminum foil. Try to remove as much air from the packaging as possible before sealing.


Basic Preparation

Short ribs benefit greatly from low, slow braises. This is a basic braising recipe for all three short rib varieties, and the finished ribs would be great served with mashed potatoes or mashed turnips. (Recipe from Jack Ubaldi's Meat Book: A Butcher's Guide to Buying, Cutting, and Cooking Meat by Jack Ubaldi, out of print.)

  • 3 pounds short ribs cut into 2" by 3" rectangles, with any excess fat removed
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 cup of red wine
  • 1 cup beef stock
  • 1/2 cup canned plum tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley

Season the flour with salt and pepper, and use the mixture to coat the short ribs. Heat the vegetable oil in a large heavy skillet and brown the ribs on all sides. In an flameproof casserole dish, brown the chopped onions in the butter. Once they've softened, add the celery and the carrots. Remove the browned ribs from the skillet and add them to the casserole dish. Cook the ribs and the vegetables for 10 minutes. Add the wine and let it reduce by half. Add the beef stock and the tomatoes. Lower the heat, cover the casserole dish and let it simmer for 2 hours. Half an hour before it's done, add the chopped parsley.


Additional Recipes


Special thanks to Bob del Grosso, Chef and Charcutiere of Hendricks Farms and Dairy in Telford, Pennsylvania, for consulting on this post.

Ryan Adams


Comment Feed

  1. This was very informative, thank you! Fall-off-the-bone tender short ribs are always fabulous, but the more chewy flanken short-ribs also deserve some attention. Galbi (korean bbq short-ribs) is made with the flanken cut, and so happens to be my favorite beef short-rib dish! here is a great recipe:

    5 lbs beef flanken short-ribs
    1 cup soy sauce
    1/3 cup sesame oil
    1/8 cup white sugar
    1/8 cup brown sugar
    1 yellow onion, sliced
    8 green onions, chopped
    8-10 cloves of garlic, minced
    2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger root
    1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds

  2. I love comments with recipes included! Thank you very much!

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